Using Citi Thank You points to book free flights


This is the third part of a mini-series on using flexible points to book free travel. In case you missed it here’s an overview of types of points and here’s how to use Citi points to book hotel nights. Today’s post centers on how to book flights with your Citi Thank You Rewards points.

There are multiple cards that earn Thank You points, and it’s important to understand which cards receive which rates. For this post, I’ll be using the example of my recent booking of my friend Kacey Faith’s flight to Portugal/Spain this summer to meet up with Caleb and I and wrap up our RTW trip in style!

This July my best friend and I will witness (not participate!) the Running of the Bulls together in Pamplona, Spain thanks to Citi TY points!

This July my best friend and I will witness (not participate!) the Running of the Bulls together in Pamplona, Spain thanks to Citi TY points!

Kacey is a loyal friend and GMPH reader and has signed up for several new rewards earning credit cards in the past year, including the Citi TY Premier card, earning enough points for a roundtrip to Europe. To get the best value for her points, she transferred the points to Caleb’s account* and we booked the flight for her.

Anyone with Citi Thank You points can book flights through the Travel Rewards Center, BUT if you have the Citi Prestige you will receive better rates and a much deeper discount towards American Airline flights.

Citi Premier Card Redemption:

  • 1.25 cents per point towards the cost of a hotel, car rental, cruise, or flight

Citi Prestige Card Redemption:

  • 1.6 cents per point towards the cost of a ticket on American/US Airways
  • 1.33 cents per point towards the cost of a ticket on another airline

If you don’t have a Prestige card, you can transfer your points to someone who does by calling the number on the back of your card and presenting them with the account holder’s name and number. Then that person can book the flight in your name at the discounted rate.

If you are booking the flight for yourself, here’s the basic steps to follow:

1. Log in to your Citi account and click on your Thank You points balance on top right, which opens a new window.

2. Click “Travel” on top menu bar

3. Click “Flights”

4. Enter your search criteria.

Here's a sample booking using the "multiple destinations" search tool.

Here’s a sample booking using the “multiple destinations” search tool.

In this example (not actually her booking), the total point cost is 77,003 points. In comparison, if booking directly with American Airlines points through the AA website, a reward ticket would cost 60,000 points. So using Citi TY points is more expensive, but also offers much greater flexibility. First of all, you are not limited to flights available at the saver level. There are not many seats to be found with your AAdantage points for seats to Europe in the peak summer travel season at this point. With Citi points any flight for sale can be booked. Also, Kacey will earn miles for her flight since it was booked through a third-party site as a normal flight, rather than appearing as a points redemption.

Though the flexibility is far greater, remember to compare your options if you have multiple types of points, as Citi points are not always the best “value” redemption. In comparison, we recently booked our tickets home from Spain on American Airlines using AAdvantage points and were able to book business class seats for 50,000 miles each, which had we paid cash would have cost us $14,000 (an absurd amount of Citi Thank You Points). Of course this is hard to measure because we would never actually spend that much on a flight.

In the end, using Citi points for my friend was a great option to get her to Europe because Citi was the type of points she had available. In some cases it can be much more valuable to have airline points, but the best redemption is what works for you based on what you’ve got.

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